BETHANY, W.Va. – A Bethany College junior recently won two prizes in the regional 2022 ECHO Student Literary Competition.

Kierra McClain, an English major from Richmond, Ohio, won first place in the fiction category for “You, Me and a Can of Peaches” and third place in the creative nonfiction category for “A Trading Post for Lost Souls.”

“I was elated when I got the email that I had won the fiction portion of the competition,” McClain said. “I found out about placing in the nonfiction category about an hour later and was just shocked. I put a lot of love and energy into these pieces and I’m just so happy that I get to share my stories with others.”

“You, Me and a Can of Peaches” follows a single-mother and her daughter through the years as they struggle with a broken family, substance abuse and poverty.

“Growing up, almost everyone I knew came from a single parent household and substance abuse was a common thing to see near where I lived,” McClain said. “I wanted to write something to express how the issues sometimes go hand in hand while also expressing that people affected by the subjects are still human beings.”

McClain describes “A Trading Post for Lost Souls” as a reflection of one of the most difficult periods of her life and her interactions with people in similar situations.

“I wanted to share the story to express that others aren’t alone in their struggles,” she said.

McClain found success with her first submissions in the ECHO Student Literary Competition.

“My choice to submit pieces was a spur-of-the-moment decision,” McClain said. “I decided to take my chances and start getting my writing out there, starting with the opportunities that the staff of Bethany shared with me, including the competition.”

Dr. Jessie Janeshek, associate professor of English and director of Writing Across Curriculum, said McClain’s success is particularly noteworthy, given that Bethany submissions made up only 5 percent of the ECO Student Literary Competition this year.

“Kierra is a gifted writer with interesting things to say,” Jessie Janeshek said. “It’s been a pleasure working with her in three genres, fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction, over these past several years and seeing her talent grow.

She takes risks with her work, she is willing to share her writing at events, and she doesn’t give up. She understands what it means to be a devoted, persistent writer as well as an attentive literary citizen in support of her peers’ work.”

McClain also recently received the Cammie Pendleton Award as an outstanding English major during Bethany’s recent Honors Day ceremony.

The annual ECHO competition is open to undergraduates at Bethany, Heidelberg University, Hiram College, Marietta College, University of Mount Union, and Muskingum University.

A panel of faculty from the eligible schools evaluate the submissions without knowing the identity of the authors, and faculty do not judge entries from their home schools.

Prizes are $150 for first place, $100 for second and $50 for third.

The contest also includes a poetry category. Nativa O’Brien was Bethany’s most recent winner when she won that category as a senior in 2022.

About Bethany College

Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.